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Dot: Theater review by Adam Feldman
A gently swung version of “My Favorite Things” plays at the start of Colman Domingo’s Dot, as the windows of a West Philadelphia home light up on the show’s pointillist curtain. Then that curtain rises, and BANG!: In a blinding change of light, we are in the house’s kitchen, where everything is yellow and too much is yelled. Susan Stroman’s direction seems pitched to the balcony of a far larger theater than the Vineyard. “The people that I know in West Philly have the dryest delivery,” writes Domingo in his stage directions; there isn’t a dry line in this house.
The production’s bigger-broader-louder appoach does not cast the most flattering possible light on Domingo’s already overstuffed dramedy, about a middle-class African-American family whose matriarch, Dotty (Marjorie Johnson), is losing her mind to Alzheimer’s. There are likable characters and comedic bits worth savoring—including a vivacious turn by Libya V. Pugh as Dotty’s wildest child—but they don’t have room to breathe; the show’s affectionate embrace of black and gay stereotypes becomes too tight a grip, and the heart gets squeezed out. Though amusing, Dot comes off as a sitcom that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, an episode of The Cosby Show directed as The Jeffersons.—Adam Feldman
Vineyard Theatre (Off Broadway). By Colman Domingo. Directed by Susan Stroman. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 15mins. One intermission.